Book review: Keep Chickens!

Keep Chickens!

Tending small flocks in cities, suburbs, and other small spaces

by Barbara Kilarski

This book originally caught my attention as I have always wondered whether I could keep chickens in my back garden at home. The answer to this would seem quite clearly to be no, as my garden is about 10 metres square, and is already inhabited by a shed, a bbq, a table and chairs, a raised bed and a gigantic bay tree, not to mention a load of rose bushes. But worth a read anyway I thought, just to check.

Barbara Kilarski is very enthusiastic about domestic chicken keeping. You can tell by the exclamation mark in the title. Her well researched and thorough tips on choosing a chicken, coop design and chicken care are peppered with stories about her own flock, whom she refers to collectively

as ‘the Girls’. There are plenty of anecdotes about the antics of Whoopee, Zsa Zsa and Lucy throughout. There are some full colour pages of various breeds of chicken at the back of the book, along with some egg recipes in case you find yourself with a surplus. Illustrations are chosen from a 1940’s title called Poultry Tribune, which I think would be worth a read in itself.

This is a must read if you’re considering keeping chickens in the future, and particularly if you’re going to be building a home made coop. It has some great advice about all aspects of coop design, from nest boxes and roosts to vermin control.

The only downside to this book is that it is written from an American perspective, so some of the sections on ‘chickens and the law’ may not be relevant to non US readers.

Tooting Life – Full of surprises

Tooting never fails to amaze me.  I was highly sceptical when I heard about Merton Abbey Mills, an arts and crafts ‘alternative market’ in Collier’s Wood.  What particularly upset me was that I’d managed to live in the area for a year without knowing about it.  The thing about Tooting and environs is that – lovely as it is, the main shops tend to fall into one of three categories:

1) Take-away joints that make KFC look healthy – Tooting boasts ‘the biggest Chicken Cottage in Europe’.

2) Pound shops, usually displaying most of their wares on the pavement directly outside the shop, and often half way into the adjoining road as well.

3) Incredible Kerala style Indian restaurants – which make it the best place to live in the world.

But an arts and crafts-y type area it is definitely not.  However, I have visited Merton Abbey Mills and it is genuinely a proper arts and crafts market with a wide range of permanent shops including a pottery, a goldsmiths, a theatre and even a ‘rock shop’ which sells… er… rocks.

Well blow me down if there isn’t a farm within spitting distance as well!  I am gobsmacked.  Deen City Farm is nearby in Morden.  They have a riding school, growing garden, a maze and even a rare breeds livestock section.  On their homepage at the moment they have a notice about ‘Livestock for sale’.  This could be the source of the much anticipated chickens!  I am, needless to say, very excited about this.  Must get down there soon and have a nose around.

Incidentally I found out about this using a rather clever little gizmo on the BBC Countryfile magazine website called Big Barn.  You can type in your postcode, and it will return a map with all the nearby producers – farm shops, bakeries, delis, box schemes and even pick your own farms – close to you.  Genius.  The Countryfile podcasts are worth a listen as well.


I am just about to cycle half a mile to the shop to get a proper free range egg.  This is because I am making a cake this afternoon, and I refuse to buy nasty eggs from the corner shop, which are definitely of the battery variety.  It occurs to me that if I was allowed to have chickens in the garden, this probably wouldn’t be necessary.

Plus I wouldn’t then have five other eggs sitting in the fridge door making me feel guilty for not having a plan for them.

This enhances the thought I had over the week-end that we really should move out of London soon, so that we have room for chickens, and a lovely allotment patch style vegetable garden, like wot we dug for Nige yesterday.